The Woodland of Van Buren Golf Course
Teachers’ Comments: Friendly
I don’t think you could have a worst location for a golf course: adjacent to a landfill trash mountain hundreds of feet high, across from a trailer park and sandwiched by roads frequented by heavy trucks which rumble along to their industrial destinations. As if emphasizing this, there is a sign on the gate warning—not to abandon all hope— but that management is not responsible for car theft.
It is this Dantesque vision that for many years kept me from playing there in spite of working for two decades within a ten minute drive.
I should not have waited so long. The Woodlands of Van Buren turned out to be a rather pleasant oasis in an otherwise blighted area. It was neat and well maintained; in places, it is quite pretty. Mount Trashmore makes its looming presence known on only a few holes.
The Woodlands of Van Buren is a relatively easy course. From the back tees, it measures 6,102 and plays to a 68.4/134, but from the middle it is just 5,541 at a 66.3/112. The fairways are generous, and the terrain quite flat. There’s no need to guess how many clubs up or down to shift. It is all right there in front of you.
Water abounds at The Woodlands—so much so that I wonder why isn’t called The Ponds. Water makes an appearance on on thirteen of the eighteen holes. The remaining six have small ditches that cross the fairways, which I am certain are full of water whenever southeast Michigan goes through a rainy spell.
I shot my best score of the year at The Woodlands, coming close to breaking eighty. A tee shot’s intersection with an unexpected stretch of water is all that kept me from that milestone.
Conditions on the day I played were good. Fairways were all grown in, and well kept. The greens had recently been aerated and top dressed with sand, so I can’t properly judge that, but from the care given the test of the course, my suspicion is that the greens also would be acceptable.
My favorite hole was the 498 yard par 5 fourteenth. A good straight tee shot is needed to thread a couple of bunkers encroaching the landing area. From there, the fairway bends left to the green. Fronting the green is a creek bounded by marshy grasses. The rest of the hole is framed by woods. For the second shot, golfers are faced with a difficult decision. A shot long, left or right is likely to get stuck behind a tree. Short ends up in the creek. The most likely approach is to lay up in front of the creek. But after a really good drive, there is still the temptation to get there in two with a long three wood. I laid up, put the third on the green and walked off with a par.
Prices—at least in the fall—are very reasonable. I paid $14.50 to walk. Another $9.50 would have netted a cart. As near as I can tell, rates are in the $30 range during the peak season.
No one will mistake The Woodlands for a high end course, but I liked the course enough that I plan to make many more return visits—it is convenient and friendly.
The Woodlands Golf Course Review originally was published October 31, 2013. Updates and more recent course information are welcome in the comments section.
More photos below: